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India, Bangladesh look at forging closer ties on farm front

India Bangladesh to jointly focus on agriculture sector

India and Bangladesh will look at ways to jointly enhance productivity in the agriculture sector with forward and backward integration in the field. The two countries could also look at expanding trade in the sector and leverage each other’s strength.

Sources said that preliminary work has started and the focus would be on the north east states.

“Some work has started on India Bangladesh jointly working in the agriculture and agro-products sectors. The area where the two countries can collaborate is the north east,” an insider said.

Agriculture is one of the primary sectors with significant ocio-economic implications as about 60 per cent of the population is engaged in the sector, which is also dependent on climatic conditions.

“This is an area where we both should work with greater synergies and collaboration. Agriculture can have game-changing potential between our two countries. Bilateral cooperation in this sector can pave the way to overcome the current economic challenges. Agriculture sector has huge socio-economic dimensions,” Piyush Goyal, minister, commerce & industry, consumer affairs and food & public distribution earlier said.

India and Bangladesh have faced similar challenges in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which has left many jobless while thousands of migrant labourers have been forced to return to the agriculture.

Besides, both countries due to their proximity also face similar climatic challenges such as floods and cyclones.

According to AgNews, a digital magazine with a focus on agriculture, there is need for deepening bilateral cooperation between India and Bangladesh which already enjoy “close diplomatic relation and porous land border” on improving productivity in the farm sector.

“The economic shutdown is hampering movement of products between the two countries and affecting farmers of the countries. With the opening up of the land ports, reviving the marketplaces along the borders of Bangladesh and North East India, can strengthen business-to-business communication. Hence, the enhanced cooperation will help farmers of both countries to market their agricultural products. This kind of cooperation can benefit farmers of both countries, increase regional trade and assist in export earning,” it noted.

Sources said that there is a great degree of political willingness to expand co-operation in this critical area.

“The most important point is political willingness and that is there from both sides, so it is important to press the pedal as agriculture has the ability to push economic growth and generate employment," a person familar with the development said. While there are several issues including the contentious water sharing pact which are yet to be resolved, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina have chartered a new course in bilateral relations between the two countries.

The two countries have already decided to improve connectivity. In December, rail connectivity between Haldibari in West Bengal and Chilahati in Bangladesh was resumed after almost 55 years.

The two countries are now work out the modalities to open up a bus route between Dhaka and Siliguri. The route is expected to be opened this year.

India is also looking at fast-tracking the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India Nepal (BBIN) initiative which will boost connectivity among the South Asian neighbours through rail and road.